Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, July 31, 2015

Report from Verdun: July 1916

Advancing to the Front at Verdun

July 7th - Under a terrible bombardment I arrive at my command post in the bois Fumin at 2 am, followed by my battalion. We left at 22:30 and had only 3 kilometers to go. We marched for 3 and a half hours without stopping, except at the end of the route, when pesky Very lights obliged us to wait for a few seconds. We marched so hard and even ran at times, that we are literally exhausted.

At the Front
The earth in front of my shelter has been shattered and tossed about. Entering, I see a cadaverous-looking infantryman crawling out from the mixture of earth, stones and rubble.   But after a few hours he's no longer the same; he's gone away and a tiralleur in khaki lies in his place.   Then other cadavers and uniforms replace him.  The  shell that buries one seems to unearth another; and yet one gets used to these sights; you ignore the indescribable stench of the slaughter-house in which we live, but any joy  in life will certainly be poisoned forever when the war is over.

As far as you can see, and that is long way indeed, for I have a splendid panoramic view of fort Douaumont and the surrounding heights, everything has been burnt, shattered, mixed up pell-mell with earth, rocks, debris and bodies.

Exposed and Under Fire
Can you imagine the heavy artillery concentration the Germans had to build up around Verdun before they could so thoroughly grind up the terrain occupied by the French, by  day and by night; every ridge, every ravine, every fort, every strong-point, every trench, every shelter a target for their special ordnance.

French Major - later Colonel - Roman , 358th Infantry Regiment 

Thanks to Christina Holstein for this.

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